Butter clams cause shellfish poisoning in Snohomish County resident

Health officials in Washington state say they have confirmed a case of shellfish poisoning in a person who ate butter clams that were recreationally harvested in Island County.

The paralytic shellfish poisoning illness was found in a Snohomish County resident who experienced tingling and numbness of the lips, tongue and extremities, The Washington State Department of Health said Thursday in a statement.

Officials said the butter clams harvested by the person who got ill had paralytic shellfish poisoning levels over five times the allowable level for harvest.

Recreational butter and varnish clam harvesting have been closed because of the toxins since 2021 in most of Island and Snohomish counties.

Symptoms of the illness happen within minutes to a few hours after consuming contaminated shellfish and also can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination and difficulty speaking or swallowing. In severe cases, people can experience total muscular paralysis with respiratory arrest.

Anyone who experiences those symptoms should see a health care provider immediately or call 911 in life-threatening cases, officials said.

Current biotoxin closures are listed on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map.